CHENNAI: As the pandemic continues its onslaught in the State, are people experiencing an ‘information overload’? Experts seem to think so. They say that people glued to TV and mobile screens trying to glean information about COVID-19 may be prone to stress, anxiety, and paranoia among other issues. Experts also suggest that reduction in screen time and filtering out misinformation could prevent things from getting out of hand.
Dr Sivarajan Thandeswaran, Senior Consultant, Stroke and Neurovascular Medicine at Kauvery Hospital, said that leaving out unverified information and regulating gadget time is important to tackle the crisis. “Being aware scientifically is very important and we must take forward good information like precautionary measures and social distancing. But it is better to have off-screen time and not rely on gadgets all the time for particular information,’’ he said.
Dr Sivarajan said that, unfortunately, consuming a lot of information - and more importantly misinformation - leads to a state of ‘extreme awareness’ and anxiety. “This increases cortisol levels, affecting the brain’s ability to think rationally,’’ he says.
Excess consumption of information as part of the 24/7 news cycle and torrent of WhatsApp messages has put many people under stress and they are sleepless too. Dr Sivarajan points out that he sees at least five patients a week suffering from severe insomnia.
"This is mainly because they can’t stop looking at information on the phone. When people constantly look at numbers, they panic," he says, adding that patients who have had good amount of ‘off-screen time’ have recovered.
Experts believe that information overload may have serious consequences on our health in ways that do not meet our eye. Sahithya Raghu, Consultant Psychologist at Gleneagles Global Health City, said people may experience cognitive decline and dementia.
"People get unnecessary hallucinations. They would feel lonely and it may have psychological impacts like paranoia, anxiety and anger," she said. Sahithya said people must distance themselves from thoughts that make them anxious.
"We can slow down our mind by counting from 50 to one. Healthy breathing is important too," she said, adding that creating a positive atmosphere at homes and workplaces will go a long way in combating mental stress.
Good breathing practices
Talking to others about how we feel
Filtering out misinformation
Avoid breaking news, consumption of numbers